Exodus 18 – Delegation Not Incineration

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“The thing that you are doing is not good.”

The relationship between a man and his father-in-law can be great or it can be terrible. Moses evidently had a strong relationship with his father-in-law, Jethro, since Jethro pointed out to Moses an activity that just wasn’t right.

Jethro was a priest of Midian. The Midianites descended from Abraham but did not worship the God of the Israelites. Before he returned to Egypt to lead God’s people to freedom, Moses spent 40 years working with Jethro, so they knew each other well.

Jethro brought the wife of Moses and their two sons to Moses while he was leading the Israelites on their journey to the Promised Land.  He was awed by what God had done and acknowledged there was no other god greater that the God of Israel.

“Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods; indeed, it was proven when they dealt proudly against the people.” – Exodus 18:11

During his visit, Jethro noticed Moses judging the people from morning until night. It was not a good thing, and Jethro told Moses so.

“You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. – Exodus 18:18

He even suggested a different course of action – delegation.

“Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. – Exodus 18:21

“Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. – Exodus 18:22

Perhaps you’ve worked for a manager who had to be involved in all the details so much that every jot and tittle of your work was questioned and even changed. That causes two major problems.

  • Your self-confidence can take a serious hit when everything you do is questioned. The result is you don’t grow in your profession.
  • The manager will burn out trying to do everyone’s job including his or her own.

Jethro saw what was going to happen. Moses was going to burn out. It would be impossible to continue this daily routine. Moses had to delegate.

Jethro even had a plan, and it was a good one. Appoint leaders over smaller groups of people, and allow them to judge the relatively minor disputes. The more serious ones would be referred to Moses.

What are our takeaways from chapter 18?

  • Are you a Moses? Take note of your workload. Are you micromanaging? Is one of your subordinates qualified to perform a task you are currently doing? Let them do it.
  • Are you a Jethro? If you notice someone setting themselves up for burnout, come up with a possible solution. Then approach the person. Just telling someone they need to change is really cheap talk. Many people can tell someone they need to change. Few will suggest a solution.
  • A close relationship is a prerequisite for a productive conversation. We listen to those we’re close to. They listen to us.

Click on “A Walk Through Exodus” on the menu bar for more posts in this series.


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